By the time the war ends, Harry is alone.
The only family he's ever had in his life have been Sirius, Hermione and the Weasleys, Ron especially. And now they're all gone. Except Charlie, of course. He spent the duration of the war safe in Romania while one by one his siblings and parents fell victim to the war. Harry doesn't think Charlie would have survived the war if he'd been in Britain. He's the sort who would have been in the thick of it, like the rest of them.
Harry doesn't know whether to feel glad or resentful that Charlie didn't die alongside his family. He hates himself for that.
Nonetheless, when Charlie returns home for the funeral – there's only one for the whole family of Weasleys, because there's been so much death lately that the Ministry is cutting their costs as well as their losses – Harry practically runs to his side.
He's never had a chance to get to know Charlie very well. They've only spent a few days in each other's presence here and there, and they couldn't have even spoken to each other more than a handful of times. But Harry looks at him and sees that same red hair and freckles that haunt his dreams pasted onto a living, breathing person. He can't help but cling to that.
Charlie lets Harry hang off him during the funeral. Harry can't believe Charlie wouldn't want to seek out people he actually knows and likes, but if that actually is the case, then Charlie does an admirable job of hiding it. He even wraps a comforting arm around Harry towards the end. Harry can feel the cool touch of robes soaked by what he realises are his own cooling tears, and he wonders when he started crying. It's not something he's accustomed to doing, really.
They stand together like that until people start standing up and moving away. It's unexpected, Charlie holding onto him that way, but it's also nice. Harry thinks he could get used to close human contact like that again, given some time.
Harry expects Charlie to hang back after the service. He intends to do so himself, even though he knows the press will swarm to his side and ask painful questions that he doesn't want to hear, let alone answer. They certainly did so at Hermione's funeral (which had been purely Muggle, and so he'd thought would have been safe from their vulture-like tendencies). Harry imagines today will likely be a hundred times worse. With no one but wizards around, and with so many deaths being marked at one time, there's a lot to be said and little reason for them to hold back.
He's prepared to put up with that, though, if it means spending time sharing comfort with those few who have survived. There are Order members and old school mates scattered throughout the throng of mourners. Harry can't bear to leave without at least acknowledging the fact that they came. He appreciates it, somehow, even though he knows it's not him they came for.
Charlie, however, takes one look at Harry and drags him off as soon as the funeral ends, heedless of Harry's protests that he wants to stay.
"You don't look like you want to be here, trust me," Charlie says.
Harry doesn't know him well enough to just 'trust him', to be perfectly honest, but he's too damn tired to fight about it. He doesn't even protest when Charlie Apparates into Harry's flat a second after Harry, and then makes himself at home by fetching a glass of water. He knocks back the contents swiftly, as if he can't stand to taste it but knows it's necessary. Harry thinks he can see Charlie's hand shaking just a little.
He's clearly just as upset as Harry, if not more so. Of course he would be. Harry feels like an idiot.
"I'm sorry," Harry mumbles. "You shouldn't have to deal with me, on top of everything else today."
Charlie puts the glass down and moves to Harry's side. He places a hand on Harry's shoulder. "It's no trouble. I like helping you. I like spending time with you in general."
You don't even know me, Harry thinks, but he doesn't say it. He doesn't want to run Charlie off. Charlie's the nearest thing he has to family these days, though that thought is more depressing than comforting.
Charlie's hand strays up from Harry's shoulder to his neck and then caresses the line of Harry's jaw. Harry doesn't quite understand what Charlie is doing until the barest brush of a thumb over his bottom lip leaves a tingling that makes Harry's eyes jerk up to meet Charlie's.
Harry isn't sure how he feels about the look Charlie is giving him, but he still doesn't protest.
"I've thought about you a lot, you know, Harry. While I was away in Romania, you were never far from my mind. At first I thought that was just a hazard of being part of the Order of the Phoenix – always putting you first in my mind, you know – but I don't think that was it at all."
Charlie turns Harry's face around and his own descends. He pauses to give Harry one last chance to back out.
Harry can't help but think, in the short moment before their lips touch, that Charlie doesn't want him, whether he thinks he does or not. Harry's an ideal to him, just as he is to everyone else, and Charlie's clearly got a bit of hero worship going on, despite the fact that Charlie's the one who's older and more experienced.
But then, it's just as obvious that Harry's using Charlie for his own purposes as well. Somehow that makes it a little easier to bear.
When Charlie kisses him, Harry doesn't close his eyes. His unfocused gaze takes in the blurry outlines of red hair and freckles of which he's too close to see the detail.
He clutches at Charlie and kisses back.